Native Americans exhibit at the Upcountry History Museum in Greenville

The history museum in downtown Greenville has an interesting exhibit about Native American tribes in the South Carolina Upcountry. Admission is $5 adults, $4 seniors, $3 children and students age 4 to 18 and free for children age 3 and under.

The Cherokees
“…The Great Buzzard flew all over the world…when he reached the Cherokee country, he was very tired, and his wings began to flap…wherever they struck the earth there was a valley, and when they turned up again there was a mountain.” Cherokee myth

“The males of the Cherokee…are tall, erect, and moderately robust, their limbs well shaped so as generally to form a perefect human figure…”
William Bartram, naturalist, 1791

18th century encounter with the Cherokee tribe

Early description of Cherokee men

Drawing of early Cherokee settlements in the Carolinas.

Cherokee settlements around 1250 AD

Cherokee village near Pisgah North Carolina 1250 A.D.

Over time the Cherokee settlements turned into towns that were more spread out and more advanced than earlier villages, as illustrated in the Tennessee’s Chota town layout below.

Cherokee town settlement

A look at a more developed prehistoric Cherokee town

Trade and war
In 1730, seven Cherokee warriors went to London to sign a treaty with the British government. They signed a trade agreement that will eventully build colonial fortunes for Great Britain. European traders obtained deerskins and sometimes slaves from the Cherokees. In the early 1700s, South Carolina exported 54,000 deerskins annually.

Cherokee come to England the early 18th century for a trade contract

Cherokee leaders travel to London in 1730 to establish a trade agreement


Native Americans became dependent on European manufactured goods, such as fabric, farming tools, hardware and weapons. They soon exhausted the deer population.

Mounting debt forced them to sell land in order to satisfy their creditors.

Treaties between the Cherokees and the Charlestown-based government limited European settlement in the Upcountry. South Carolina Governor James Glen secured treaties with Native Americans in 1743 that promoted trade and designated land for European settlement. However, as Piedmont region offered rich soil and clean water for farming, settlers ignored these treaties and moved into Native American land.

Native American artifacts from the Upcountry

Cherokee hunting and harvesting tools


In response, the Cherokees attacked the settlements in 1759. The following winter,
at Fort Prince George, the colonial militia killed hostages when Cherokee warriors stormed the fort.

After intese fighting a new treaty was signed creating a new boundary between Cherokee lands and European settlements.

During the American Revolution the Cherokees sighted with the British, hoping they would stop the advancement of the settlements. Patriot militia burned Cherokee towns and crops. On May 20, 1777 at DeWitt’s Corner, Outacite and other Cherokee leaders gave up their lands to the new American government.

The Catawbas
The Catawbas settled east along the Catawba and Wateree Rivers. They often fought with the Cherokees over precious Upcountry land. When the Europeans arrived the tribes agreed to a truce in order to participate in trading. Over time Catawba pottery became highly desired by European settlers who used it for cooking.

Catawba tribe artifact

Catawba peace pipe artifact

Once a distinct nation, by the 1730s, the Catawbas became an amalgam of different trives joined together from wars, settler incursion and disease. By 1760, war and smallpox ravaged the Catawbas to just about 500 people.

The Catawba in the Upcountry

Early drawing of a Catawba man

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